School connectedness and academic achievement

students studying
The COMPASS student survey measures school connectedness by asking how strongly students agree or disagree with each of the following statements:

  • “I feel close to people at my school.”
  • “I feel I am part of my school.”
  • “I am happy to be at my school.”
  • “I feel the teachers at my school treat me fairly.”
  • “I feel safe in my school.”
  • “Getting good grades is important to me.”

COMPASS measures academic achievement by asking:

  • What their approximate overall marks were for their most recent Math and English courses.
  • The highest level of education they would like to get.
  • The highest level of education they think they will get.
  • Whether getting good grades is important to them.
  • How many classes they skipped in the last four weeks.
  • How often they go to class without their homework complete.

Why are school connectedness and academic achievement health issues?

Students are more likely to succeed when they feel connected to their school.3,9 This includes achieving higher grades, higher test scores, and lower drop-out rates.5

School connectedness serves as a protective factor in youth development.2,9 Students with increased school connectedness are at a lower risk for health-compromising behaviours, including:

  • marijuana use1,2,6,7,9
  • alcohol use and smoking cigarettes1,2,6,7,9
  • engaging in violence and deviant behaviour7,9
  • bullying7,8,9
  • being sexually active at an early age1,2,9
  • emotional distress or suicidal thoughts/attempts.7,9

Students who feel more connected to their schools also often experience positive outcomes, including:

  • participation in extracurricular activities9
  • greater school achievement4,9, attendance, and completion rates6,9
  • motivation and engagement in school
  • positive self-discipline
  • a greater level of emotional well-being9

School connectedness tends to decline as students move from elementary to high school. Roughly 40-60% of high school students report being chronically disengaged from their school.5

Evidence suggests that academic achievement can act as a protective factor against youth drug use.10

If you would like to increase student engagement and achievement at your school, please consult your customized School Health Profile for contact information for local public health professionals who are willing to assist you.

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1McNeely, C. A., Nonnemaker, J. M., & Blum, R. W. (2002). Promoting school connectedness: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of School Health, 72(4), 138-146.

2Resnick, M. D., Bearman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Jones, J., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R. E., Shew, M., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L. H., & Udry, R. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(10), 823-832.

3Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & Perry, C.L. (2003). Peer harassment, school connectedness, and academic achievement. Journal of School Health, 73(8), 311-316.

4Blum, R. W. (2005). A case for school connectedness. The Adolescent Learner, 62(7), 16-20.

5Klem, A.M., & Connell, J.P. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 262-273.

6Bond, L., Butler, H., Thomas, L., Carlin, J., Glover, S., Bowes, G., & Patton, G. (2007). Social and school connectedness in early secondary school as predictors of late teenage substance use, mental health, and academic outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 357.e9-357.e18.

7Klein, J., Cornell, D., & Konold, T. (2012). Relationships between bullying, school climate, and student risk behaviors. School Psychology Quarterly, 27(3), 154-169.

8O’Brennan, L. M., & Furlong, M. J. (2010). Relations between students’ perceptions of school connectedness and peer victimization. Journal of School Violence, 9, 375-391.

9Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School connectedness: Strategies for increasing protective factors among youth. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

10Henry, K. L. (2010). Academic achievement and adolescent drug use: An examination of reciprocal effects and correlated growth trajectories. Journal of School Health, 80(1), 38-43.